Our Guatemalan offerings this year have been a labor of love and determination and we couldn’t be more pleased to serve them. Each of our recent direct trade projects focuses on increasing coffee quality at the farm level in order to increase quality for our customers. Ultimately, this work lays a foundation for a sustainable coffee market for farmers and creates opportunity to improve quality of life among our coffee farmers, staff, and customers.
CODECH Cooperative, Huehuetenango
We are featuring four coffees from the CODECH Cooperative, a collective of over 300 coffee growers in Huehuetenango, Guatemala, where vibrant hand-woven pants and long sleeves are the norm. The cool climate and high altitude of this chilly, mountainous region contribute to some of the slowest growing, sweetest, and most sought-after coffees in the world. We love the juicy cup profile in CODECH coffees; unique watermelon and strawberry notes are perfect for Big Truck Espresso Blend and delicious when brewed as single origin coffees.
Our selection of these outstanding CODECH offerings is three years, and as many trips to Guatemala, in the making. While exceptional climate and elevation play key roles in the development of coffee flavor, the effort and expertise of the coffee farmer are also essential. Cherry selection, sorting, washing, fermenting, and drying of the coffee, in addition to unpredictable weather conditions throughout the harvest, contribute to what we taste in the cup.
Our efforts to improve growing and processing conditions—and ultimately, the quality of your coffee—started with the selection of a “receiving station.” Each farmer washes, ferments, and dries his or her own harvest lots, then transports them to a receiving station where the coffees are combined and stored. Within the CODECH Cooperative there are five stations. This was vital information to us - it meant that each coffee was separate for most of its journey, and could potentially be purchased by Olympia Coffee Roasting before being combined; once combined great coffees mix with those that have defects or are otherwise low quality. For that reason, lot separation at the receiving station is essential to pinpointing the highest quality, most delicious coffees.
With the help of our importing partners on this lot, Cafe Imports, selected the receiving station and association of ADINTHEC, based on altitude and location. At this receiving station, participating farmers not only agree to keep their beans separated until cupped and purchased, but also agree to grow their beans organically and process them according to practices we and the CODECH Cooperative have outlined.
While Olympia Coffee Roasting can now ensure quality control on a level never before seen, we took a gamble and committed to purchase 150 bags before cupping a single coffee. This also means more work for farmers. Significantly higher prices per pound are incentive enough for many. As more farmers work to improve their produce, our hope is to see higher quality coffees in larger quantities.
To further incentivize the Cooperative—as well as increase quality and sustainability for participating farmers—Olympia Coffee, Atlas Coffee Importers, four other roasting companies along with the management of the CODECH Cooperative devised the Grower’s Cup CODECH competition,which was held in March of 2013. Modeled after Cup of Excellence Competitions, CODECH farmers chose their best lots and presented them at the Grower’s Cup CODECH Competion. The roasting Companies along with Olympia Coffee Roasting commited to purchase the entire set of competition lots. Olympia Coffee Roasting Co is purchasing the first and second place winners: 1st Place was ADINTHEC “Aroma de Canalaj” and Second place was DIPY “Flor de Queqhna.”
This was only the first phase of our Guatemala purchases. From here, we made selections much simpler to explain, though no less complex to acquire.
While in Concepción Huista this year, We were invited by our Exporter-Importer partners Olam Specialty to the Palo Blanco farm and given the honor of cupping and purchasing before anyone else. Finca Palo Blanco has never before been isolated and sold separately outside of a larger commingled blend. We are extremely proud and thrilled to partner with the Ovalle family to sell their coffee under their name and separated for the quality coffee it is.
El Socorro Maracaturra
One of our signature Direct Trade offerings and customer and staff favorite is El Socorro Maracaturra grown by Juan Diego de la Cerda of the El Socorro farm in Palencia. Juan Diego’s family has been growing phenomenal coffees for generations, and consistently places in the top five at Cup of Excellence competitions.
Maracaturra is a coffee varietal developed in Brasil and found predominately in El Salvador and Nicaragua. Growing Maracaturra in Guatemala raises engaging questions. Terroir, for example, is the taste of place. We note terroir in Colombian coffees to be particularly malic and caramelly. In comparison, we note the same varietal of coffee grown in Costa Rica, would come across to be chocolaty and citric. We’ve found that Maracaturra maintains its inherent flavor qualities, overpowering the terroir associated with coffees grown in Guatemala.
This year, Finca El Socorro, had been working hard to expand the farm and increase the production by planting several new varieties, including Pacamara. The expansion is only one part of the farm’s changes this year, as they have been working to improve the milling and patio drying as well. The coffee is grown at over 1,900 meters, and the wet mill is located at nearly 1,700 meters which requires special attention at all times to achieve quality coffee due to the elevation and risk of over fermentation.
On our recent visit, we watched as Juan Diego coached the pickers on proper cherry selection and constantly tweaked things in the mill to make sure the pulpers were running at peak efficiency and fermentation times were accurate. Drying at this altitude requires non-stop attention to detail as the process is slow and even a small rain can damage the already processed parchment. Each night the parchment is swept up and covered to protect it from any rains that may occur. Quality is the highest priority for everyone at Finca El Socorro and that’s why we love working with Juan Diego, his family and staff.
We cupped lots separated by the specific day they were harvested. We purchased lots from days 14 and 16. Juan Diego chose day 15 to send to the Cup of Excellence, where it placed third with a 90.19 cupping score. Now that El Socorro Maracaturra has gone through our rigorous profiling and been roasted with our signature caramelization roast, we are consistently seeing scores of 92 points on the cupping table!